Chetan Bhagat to Change Royal Setting of 'Half Girlfriend'

New Delhi
Chetan Bhagat to Change Royal Setting of 'Half Girlfriend'

Novelist Chetan Bhagat today told Delhi High Court that he will change the objectionable words allegedly used in his bestselling novel Half Girlfriend which had portrayed a royal family from Bihar as alcoholics and gamblers.

A bench of Justice Jayant Nath was informed through the author's lawyer that Bhagat will change the words from his book and he has already changed the setting of the book from princely state of Dumraon, which exists, to a fictional place called Simraon, in the Hindi version.

The counsel also said that Bhagat was willing to change the same in his English and Gujarati versions of the novel.

Bhagat's counsel submission was opposed by Chandra Vijay Singh's lawyer Avneesh Garg, who sought a permanent injunction restraining the author, Rupa Publications and all others from further publication, sale and circulation of Half Girlfriend in its present form "with immediate effect".

Garg said the novel was first published in October 2014 and since than many copies have been sold.

Chandra Vijay has filed the suit in the high court within days of Bhagat changing the setting in the Hindi version of Half Girlfriend.

A descendant of the erstwhile princely state of Dumraon in Bihar has also sought Rs one crore as damages from Bhagat.

The suit was filed alleging that "express and implied references" that were "false and derogatory in nature" was made against Chandra Vijay's family in Bhagat's book.

The court on April 13 had sought the author and Rupa Publication's response.

The oral submission from the author and publication was made in backdrop of the court's earlier direction.

Chandra Vijay is the eldest son of Maharaja Bahadur Kamal Singh, a two-term Lok Sabha MP and the last ruler of Dumraon before its accession to the Indian union in 1952.

The petition said the Dumraon royals were firm that they will not accept anything short of a full retraction of the original novel in English and an apology from Bhagat and the publishers.

It said Bhagat had been given every chance to make amends and to repair the damage caused to his family's reputation but the author had not taken the family's concerns seriously.

To make his point, Chandra Vijay cited an excerpt from page 25 of the novel wherein the protagonist says, "My ancestors were landlords and from the royal family of Dumraon, the oldest princely state in British India.

"My great-granduncles squandered their money, especially since they all felt they could gamble better than anyone else in the world. Several near-bankruptcies later, the women of the house took charge as the men had all turned into alcoholics."

The royal family descendant contended in his plea that this and several other references made to his family in 'Half Girlfriend', first published in October 2014, were incorrect and cast aspersions on his family that had held it up for ridicule.

Insisting that the references were "deliberate and malicious", Chandra Vijay said his plea that his lawyers had sent a legal notice on November 14, 2014 to Bhagat and Rupa Publications, asking them to make amends.

In his reply dated November 25, 2014, Bhagat expressed regret and offered his lifelong friendship to the family, the petition said.

It further said that another notice was sent to Bhagat and Rupa on December 8, 2014, stating that the author's expression of regret was not enough to repair the damage to the Dumraon family.

In his reply dated December 15, 2014, Bhagat appeared to imply "he was willing to settle the matter". But when there was no further response from the author, Chandra Vijay sent him a third notice on January 16.

He claimed in his petition that Bhagat then sent a "vague" reply, causing him to file the defamation suit.

The suit said the damage caused to his family "is enormous and cannot be assessed and in any case, is much more than the token amount of Rupees one crore only."

It sought the references to "the royal Family of Dumraon" to be expunged from Half Girlfriend and recall of all copies of the book in its present form.

The erstwhile princely state of Dumraon, located 100 km west of Patna, was founded by a branch of Ujjainia rulers and the reign of the first king, Raja Bhoj Singh, is traced back to 1018.

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